Geog-RAP-hers

It has been a pleasure to welcome a new colleagues into the Geography Department this school year.  They introduced a new and exciting geography curriculum across all years in the Secondary School, with students (and teachers – like me) having the opportunity to investigate and discuss topical issues in much more meaningful and creative ways. 

When I trained as a geography teacher, way back in the last century, I thought I was ahead of the game challenging students to produce story boards about natural disasters, and using drama and role play to explore the destruction of our rainforests, etc.  Fast forward to this academic year and by Christmas I have been assessing the student´s knowledge and understanding of our oceans by producing their own podcasts, and this week I have been amazed by their musical ability and confidence to write and perform rap songs about the urban decline of Detroit city in the US. 

I am a big fan of cross-curricular learning, and fully believe that enabling the involvement of skills and passions from other academic subjects, and a student´s personal interests, in your own lessons maximising the learning potential for all students in a classroom learning environment. 

I would love to claim the idea of reinforcing the concepts of urban decline and deprivation with the use of a rap based on a soundtrack from Detroit´s very own Eminem, but I can´t, and must thank my colleague and the rest of the geography team for their approach and willingness to collaborate in such creative ways.  It is refreshing to be able to improve my own teaching styles and ideas by learning from and observing others. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to my students perform their raps in class this week and have included an example of some lyrics on this page. 

I hope you enjoy yo!

More Than Just a Sandwich

I have been leading a short global citizenship programme for our Year 11 students post-examinations.  We have been looking into the importance of global citizenship education, what it is, and how we can all become better global citizens.  In one of the first sessions I used my analogy of a sandwich and the endless variety of ingredients (see earlier post) needed to make a satisfying sandwich, and the representation through the eyes of a geographer placing two pieces of bread at exactly the opposite sides of the Earth at the same time.

wangari maathai

We also looked at Wangari Maathai´s simple but powerful story of the hummingbird, you can watch it here.  Still a real favourite of mine.

I challenged the students to form their own analogies of global citizenship after our early discussions and to submit their ideas in between sessions via a form.  I thought I would share just a few…

How can you best explain global citizenship or represent it (be as creative as you like – a sandwich, a hummingbird…)?

Clockwork – global citizenship is a mindset. It is like clockwork. When you work with other global citizens it creates a system or rather a society that allows humanity to coexist with the problems you are passionate about. Combining all aspects that create an effective global citizen you become a crucial part of that clockwork that allows for society to keep moving.

selective focus photography of pasta with tomato and basil

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Spaghetti – I would represent global citizenship as a spaghetti plate where all the cultures, ambitions and personalities intertwine and contribute to the whole, like the individual spaghetti pieces.

Sea– it has different species of different colours, that together, form the sea, and they come together to form something beautiful.

Ship – global citizenship can be represented as a ship, commanded and sailed by all the nations in harmony with each country and citizens taking part in sailing the ship.

drone footage of a beach

Photo by Herman. io on Pexels.com

Beach – each grain is a quality, as someone develops, their persona grows and becomes stronger. Each wave, metaphorical for opportunities, brings new grains upon to the beach, (qualities) shaping the strengths and weaknesses of one’s personality. However, sometimes challenges arise, but a good global citizen will learn from such threats or conflict and learn new attributes.

Circle of hands – I would represent it as the different cultures and minds around the world folded hands in a huge circle while a white dove passes by.

Ants – I chose ants because they are a small dot on the huge planet but by working together they can get things done fast and can really make a change.

silhouette photo of person holding door knob

Photo by George Becker on Pexels.com

Bee – pollinating the flowers, and therefore helping the wider world.

Door – global citizenship is awareness which comes after you have opened your mind to new experiences and to being selfless or generous. When you open a door, there is effort behind this action however it is not as difficult as it may seem, and when the door is opened, you can be conscious of the real world.

Lockdown Likes

Rediscovering books of old

Sporting classics being retold

Rays of sunshine filter in

A joyous time to empty a bin

Lunching together (Spanish time)

Board games, jig-saws, quizzes, mime

Open windows fresh air breathes in

Online meetings (shorts and flip-flops!) let’s begin

Radio podcasts, #BBC

Nothing like a cuppa tea

The patter of rain, rumbles of thunder

Classic films, tears and wonder

International friends in a virtual space

aprendiendo español at my own pace

The distant sounds of cutting grass

Memories, summer days long in the past

Darting swallows busy at dusk

Old San Pedro makes no fuss

Coming together one community claps

The time, the place, the people, perhaps 

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Paul Crouch, 23.04.2020

Tres Cantos, Madrid

Make the ordinary come alive

One o'clock...

One o’clock…

“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life.

 

A tree climbing gang

A tree climbing gang

 

Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.

 

Sticks and rivers

Sticks and rivers

 

And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

By William Martin

The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents

 

Finding dinosaurs in the sand

What did you do this Sunday?  We decided to go for a walk around Fairhaven Lake in the bright late January sunshine.  An easy walk for a family of five, especially with scooters in hand, you may even call it a typical Sunday afternoon walk.  On this crisp and clear day we could see right across the estuary, probably the best view we have had since living in the area, with Southport seeming to be only a stones throw away.  Seeing silhouettes of people out on the horizon and giving in to the allure of the mostly untouched vista of sand in front of us, we clambered down the promenade wall and headed out into the estuary looking for the mighty Ribble.

A dinosaur in the sand

A dinosaur in the sand

Pretty quickly we could see a strange and weird shape in the distance jutting out of the baron sand.  It looked like it could be close to the river as the sand seemed to dip down just beyond the mysterious object.  So we headed towards it to investigate.  As we made our way out into the unknown and leaving the civilization of Lytham St. Annes behind us, Jonah observed that “this might be like walking on the moon.”  Although, even the moon is not as windy as the Fylde coast!  The closer we got to the object the more it began to look like a large skeleton, particularly one of a dinosaur – like you may see in a museum.

Young paleontologists

Young paleontologists

The dinosaur in the sand was in fact (disappointingly to the kids) a large piece of drift wood that had become well lodged into the sand banks and not a skeleton.  We did have a good chat about where the tree may have come from though and how it had got there.  It definitely created an eerie feel to the landscape, especially with the relentless wind filtering sand through the lattice like wooded frame.  We said goodbye to the prehistoric relic and completed our mission down the final dip to admire the Ribble as it glimmered its way past us and out into the salty Irish Sea.  Three tasty Drunmstick lollipops were freed from deep within the interior of the coat pocket as a satisfying treat for all, with the added incentive of being a psychological bribe, we turned 180 degrees head-on into the howling icy wind and made the long walk back to the mainland.  We had a typical Sunday walk to complete.

The Comedy Carpet

photo 4 (9)

Sometimes you have no idea what you are going to find or come across.  Your preconceived impression of a place often does not do it justice.  There are gems of brilliance, beauty, imagination, innovation, quirkiness, weird and wonderful everywhere. You just have to have your eyes open and be prepared to get out and about and explore the world you live in.

photo 2 (18)

Today we ventured into Blackpool and took on the bitterly cold wind to find out a bit more about our new home and what the promenade had to offer on a Sunday in January.  It was not a democratic family decision and the sight of us defiantly picnicking in isolation next to the central pier did cause a few aggravated protests as red numb hands tried to claw crisps out of their fragile packets.

photo 2 (17)We packed up our picnic and deposited our rubbish and headed up towards the tower to get a family photo to confirm in the archives that we were here.  Glum faces trudged up the promenade in single file like a Tour de France break away group using the lead rider as a wind shield.  Surely nothing could bring a smile to their faces not even those dreaded words, “say cheese!”

photo 3 (10)

How wrong can one be though, and who would have thought that for the next hour the cold wind and frozen bones would be forgotten. Suddenly, underneath our feet the promenade erupted into an impressive spread of quotes, stories, catch phrases and jokes, known as The Comedy Carpet, created by Gordon Young and commissioned by Blackpool Council.  It is a superbly well presented collection of comedy genius that encapsulates the very best of British humour.

photo 1 (23)

We all went off in our own directions, heads down and reading the vast array of reflections and chuckling to ourselves.  You would actually need hours to read them all and one day I will go back and start from a different angle and note new favourites, some old and some never heard before. Everyone likes jokes and loves to share them, and it wasn’t long until Jonah was tugging me over to listen to his favourite jokes that he had read inscribed on the Blackpool promenade – one being something to do with horses playing water polo!  (You can read some of Jonah’s very own jokes here.)

photo 1 (22)

On the way home in the car it was interesting that nobody complained how cold they were or had been, instead everybody was still sharing their favourite jokes and even Zoe and Sam were trying to make up their own ones.  It is a real hidden gem and I am glad that we discovered it so early on.  The Comedy Carpet will now be a regular feature on future Crouch tours – you have be warned when you come and visit!

 

 

Good things come to those who wait

Will they ever get used?

Will they ever get used?

When deciding on our next family adventure and weighing up the options, the children’s opinions obviously always mattered and were going to play a big part in our decision making. When going to the UK became a serious option it was obvious that this was a popular choice for both my two oldest kids for a number of reasons and top of that list of reasons was that they really wanted to see, feel and enjoy snow.  For the last 2 months I have been telling them both that snow is unlikely and that it may only happen once a year if that.  They all got a plastic sledge each from Santa (grandma) for Christmas, wrapped up in black bin bags (Santa doesn’t seem to do large wrapping paper?), and momentarily used on the living room floor as they tried to imagine what it would be like to use them but not knowing when.  Little did we all know that they would be in full action less than from 48 hours from then.

It's real snow!

It’s real snow!

We were driving back from the sales as the light was fading late on the 26th. In the car headlights large flakes of snow began to glide through the beams and we all shouted out that it was snowing!  It got denser as we drove home, a lot like going into ‘hyper-drive‘ on the Millennium Falcon (apparently).  The kids were desperate to get outside and to feel the snow and as soon as we parked up the car they pulled on their winter coats and dived into grandma’s backyard to adsorb the new experience.

One happy snowman

One happy snowman

I explained to the kids (and my wife, who was just as excited) that the snow may not last for long and can soon thaw and turn to a brown slush, especially if it rains overnight. Even though it was now night time we decided to make the most of the opportunity and had our first family snowball fight, making sure a few snowballs also found their way through grandma’s front door at the same time!  The snow was settling and the conditions perfect to build a snowman.  I showed Jonah how to start with a small lump of snow at the top of the road and then roll it down the hill, “this is perfect rolling snow Jonah” – constantly flipping it over as it increased in size and trying to maintain a rounded shape.  I worked on his body and Jonah made his first ever snowman head.  We added some small stones for eyes, his mouth and buttons, and of course gave him a carrot for his nose.  The garden bush was hacked for some arms and a forgiving grandma donated an old scarf and hat for him to wear. The finishing touch was an empty can of Guinness which had helped keep dad warm through the activity and we both thought the snowman would appreciate (the idea of) it – hence his larger than life smile, he had waited a long time.

Even a snowman needs a friend

Even a snowman needs a friend

Before going back indoors and facing the not so pleasurable new experience of very cold toes and feet meeting a hot steaming bath, we decided to leave the snowman with a small friend to keep him company throughout the night.  Pleased with our spontaneous fun and achievements in the snow, we looked forward to a content sleep – the type you always seem to have after being active outdoors and in challenging weather conditions.  The only concern on the kid’s minds was if the snowmen would still be there in the morning.  They peeked out of the upstairs bedroom window every time they passed it informing the household “the snowmen are still there!

They're still there dad!

They’re still there dad!

Is there anything better than waking up to find the world covered in a crisp blanket of dazzling snow with clear blue skies and a sparkling winter sun?  Seeing your two special snowmen friends smiling up at you and coaxing you out to play?  Knowing there are three brand new shiny plastic sledges in the shed that are going to be christened today?  Plastic bags in between double layers of socks, thermos flasks filled and rations packed away, we are all ready for a full day of family sledging for the first time. There can’t be many better days than this, they are definitely worth the wait.

One Man and a Piano

Expressing the artist in you

Expressing the artist in you

I was at the airport again today and had the pleasure to listen to a young man playing one of those ‘play me’ pianos in the public waiting area.  We had sat down to eat our packed lunch and placed ourselves next to the piano and talented pianist to enjoy the music whilst we ate.

Play me

Play me

Zoe immediately took her sandwich over to the piano and had a good look at what the man was doing.  She even started to move to the hypnotic tones of the jazz tunes being played.  I watched and wondered who first thought of this idea of placing pianos in public places for anyone to play?  The more I thought about it the more I loved the concept and continued watching to see what impact our pianist would have on other strangers in the waiting hall.

 

An American admirer

An American admirer

As I watched and also monitored Zoe, making sure that her busy fingers didn’t add any unwanted notes to a potential masterpiece, an American lady sidled up to the pianist and introduced herself.  She was quite animated and confident in her approach, immediately acknowledging the skills and passion of our pianist.  They struck up a common theme and chatted for a while, name cards were even swapped.  Meanwhile my oldest son had joined Zoe and the two of them had commandeered the piano as the two strangers were making plans.  I continued watching them talk at the same time cringing at the dreadful din being bashed out on the piano by Zoe and Jonah thinking I must intervene soon and save everyone from the terrible noise. Luckily the American lady suddenly shot off and the pianist re-focused his attention on the piano and set about on my two.

Twinkle Twinkle number

Twinkle Twinkle number

He asked them if they could play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and to my surprise Jonah started to play the favourite nursery rhyme. The pianist motioned Jonah to play a few octaves higher and then started to accompany him with a funky jazz bass version.  Suddenly my son was playing a Twinkle Twinkle duet with a random stranger and making heads turn in one of the busiest airport terminals in the world.

Patrick and a piano

Patrick and a piano

Isn’t it amazing how music and artistic expression and enthusiasm connects people. We only planned to be in the airport for a short while and never imagined meeting someone like Patrick – how do you plan for something like that – you don’t (but always look out for the opportunities).  I asked Patrick where he was going and what time his flight was.  He told me he wasn’t going anywhere, so I asked him if he was on his work break and if he did this everyday when he had the chance.  He said no, and that he had just seen his Japanese friend off and decided to hang around and the play piano for a couple hours.  We said a big thank you and good bye to Patrick and wished him all the best with his future plans (he is starting a film business).  We walked out of Heathrow Airport for the second time in one week but this time refreshed from the positiveness of personal connectivity and social interaction and privileged that we had met Patrick, the piano player.

Mekong Memories

The Mekong In Chiang Kong, Thailand, looking over to Laos

The Mekong In Chiang Kong, Thailand, looking over to Laos

I have always had a fascination for rivers. I always looked for them on maps tracking them across continents, through countries and comparing their physical features and statistics.

Growing up in the UK we always walked along rivers and I once had the misfortune (probably my own fault) to fall into the River Trent as a child! This didn’t put me off my fascination though and I enjoyed studying river systems and their morphology through school and into university. It is one of my favourite topics to teach bringing the river alive and helping students understand the interconnections that it plays in both our rural and urban landscapes.

Slow boats on the Mekong at Huay Xai In Laos

Slow boats on the Mekong at Huay Xai In Laos

To be able to visit and explore some of the worlds major rivers is a real treat – UK rivers are special but not the most majestic! I hope to tick a few more off my list in the near future. At present we are on a (slow) boat motoring down the Mekong River as it follows the Laos and Thai border and gradually takes us into northern Laos and towards our final destination, Luang Prabang.

On the slow boat

On the slow boat

The power is awesome, a snaking mass of brown water. A monster conveyor belt of muddy sediment that once formed the physical landscape of Central Asia. Like the ocean a river can humble you and make you realise the significance of your being – how many civilisations has the Mekong witnessed? How many more will it outlast? It brings life but also destruction.

Evening in Pak Beng, Laos, looking down at the Mekong

Evening in Pak Beng, Laos, looking down at the Mekong

I have had plenty of time to reflect the last two days on the slow boat and had challenged myself to be more creative and not just tot rely on photos. So Jonah and I wrote some poems and I even learnt from him what a haiku is. We dedicate the following to our inspiration – the River Mekong:

By Jonah:

Fast flowing river
Cold, freezing sometimes warm there
Starts from high mountains

Plants
Green, tall
Growing, drinking, eating
They give us oxygen
Animals

Water
Wet, cold
Raining, evaporating, drinking
Ones hot, ones cold
Steaming, killing, melting
Hot burns
Lava

By Paul:

Mother Mekong moves
Shifting sediment and land
Making its way home

Mekong
Asias greatest
Flows through time
Bringing people
Together

Many meandering miles
Emptying Eastern empires
King of all rivers
Onwards to the ocean
Never knowing, just
Growing and growing

Sukothai – brings out the artist in you

One of many impressive Buddhas in Sukothai

One of many impressive Buddhas in Sukothai

We have just spent two wonderful days in Sukothai, the ancient capital city of what is now Thailand over 700 years ago.  This UNESCO World Heritage Site is situated towards the north of Thailand, about 3 hours south of Chiang Mai and is a beautifully well kept historical park.  It has taken me 15 years to finally get to Sukothai but it was well worth the wait, the long drive and the bucket of ice cold water.  A late convert to and now sponge of history (once arguing that geography was far more important than history) I found myself in my element walking among the temple ruins and imagining what life was like in this royal capital many centuries ago and what has happened over time for it to be in the varied states we now find it.  My oldest son asked me why the capital city was built here and not originally in Bangkok – a good question and a perfect way to bring geography and history together, as they should be.  We walked around together looking at the physical landscape and setting that we were in and discussed what made this particular place an effective site and situation for such an important city many years ago.

Reflections...

Reflections…

Photos are a great way of capturing what you see when visiting places like Sukothai.  Everyone has a different perspective and interprets the ancient designs and structures in different ways and a digital camera is perfect for capturing your own favourite observations and intricacies.  I also like watching other people and seeing what they are photographing and working out how they are interpreting the complex patterns and capturing their experience the best way they can on camera.  It is even better when a random monk appears and everyone tries to capture that perfect monk shot walking through the temple grounds as if nobody else is anywhere to be seen!  I bet you have all tried it…

Expressing the artist in you

Expressing the artist in you

Then there are those of us that are more traditional (or young and bold) and want to capture their experience and perspectives on paper.  I remember when I used to like to draw and use colour to bring out pictures that I had created.  When I made the time to sit still in one place and really take in the landscape and environment that I was observing.  It is so much easier to snap away with the digital device though and do it the saturation way – one of them will surely be good!  But am I cheating myself out of what is really important?  Should I be challenging myself to embrace this unique cultural and historical context and dig deeper into my hidden and forgotten abilities and develop an even more personal relationship with the moment and make a connection?  It is only now writing this blog and looking back at the photos, especially of Jonah sketching, that I wish that I had sat down and taken more time – a couple of sketches or even a poem – I know I have it in me (I could have posted them – target to oneself: I will next time!).

I want my children to embrace the artist in them as often as possible as they experience life, to draw on their feelings and emotions to produce work that has passion and is important and meaningful to them and will help them to remember and capture the importance of that particular moment.

Or you can always drive a tuk tuk!!

The only way to get around the temples

The only way to get around the temples